News Analysis

Monday 22 September 2014

If at first you don't succeed... why serial candidates are good for democracy

Graham Clifford

Published 18/05/2014 | 02:30

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Every few years Ireland's serial candidates do a quick stocktake of posters, election leaflets and stickers. They rifle through old material seeking what can be salvaged to use again.

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With local election candidates allowed to spend a maximum of €13,000 on campaigning, the costs of running for local office can mount up.

But would those candidates who keep seeking your number one be better off taking no for an answer and avoiding probable defeat on the day of counting?

David Farrell, Professor of Politics at UCD, thinks not, arguing that serial candidates are actually beneficial in a democracy.

"There is no rule that says there is an upper limit of the amount of times someone can run for election, and in the interests of maximising choice for voters their inclusion on the ballot paper is a good thing," he told the Irish Independent.

And in many cases he believes those who keep putting their name forward for election do so because they have developed strong reputations locally.

"It's clear that in a lot of cases those who spend years trying to get elected are heavily involved in the local area already, are recognisable faces and attract support because of work they've already carried out in the community."

He highlights the example of environmentalist, barrister and politician Sean Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus who stood for election to the Dáil 13 times – eventually taking a seat in 1981. He changed his name by deed poll several times to move further up the ballot paper.

"He kept trying and eventually it worked out for him. Who's to say this won't happen for other long-time candidates in the upcoming election?"

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